Cleveland Asks Ohio EPA to Lighten Restrictions on Brownfields

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The City of Cleveland has asked the Ohio EPA to reduce cleanup requirements for groundwater emissions.

A pending application would declare the entire city an “urban setting,” which basically gives the city a pass on cleanup because nobody’s drinking water directly from the land. So far, 20 percent of the city already bears that distinction.

Ohio EPA spokesman Mike Settles says the reclassification would make it easier to sell and reoccupy industrial-commercial properties in areas like the Flats and the industrial valley.

“The more hurdles we can remove from a site assessment being seen as contaminated, the more tools we have in getting a site reused,” says Settles.

You may remember the Ohio EPA for its starring role as the group that allowed the city to build the City View shopping center atop a scenic toxic dump; unsafe levels of methane gas sent all but a few of the center’s tenants fleeing for safer terrain. (See Scene’s “Tomb With a View,” January 10, 2007.) The Ohio EPA is also famous for taking years to investigate incidents involving foul air and Day-Glo water.

But Cleveland officials appreciate the support. Tracey Nichols, the city’s director of economic development, says the new classification would not be a strike against environmental safety in the region.
“There are hundreds of issues that go on at every brownfield site,” says Nichols. “This is just one site test regulating people drinking the water.”

On the plus side: the EPA promises to audit one-fourth of all “urban setting” properties to ensure everything’s kosher. So steer clear of the 75 percent of Cleveland they don’t check out, and you should be in good shape.

The EPA has yet to rule on the request and is accepting public comments until November 16. Write to susan.netzley@epa.state.oh.us.

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